Here we present a newly developed tool for continuous recordings and analysis of novelty-induced and baseline behaviour of mice in a home cage-like environment. Aim of this study was to demonstrate the strength of this method by characterizing four inbred strains of mice, C57BL/6, DBA/2, C3H and 129S2/Sv, on locomotor activity. Strains differed in circadian rhythmicity, novelty-induced activity and the time–course of specific behavioural elements. For instance, C57BL/6 and DBA/2 mice showed a much faster decrease in activity over time than C3H and 129S2/Sv mice. Principal component analysis revealed two major factors within locomotor activity, which were defined as ‘level of activity’ and ‘velocity/stops’. These factors were able to distinguish strains. Interestingly, mice that displayed high levels of activity in the initial phase of the home cage test were also highly active during an open-field test. Velocity and the number of stops during movement correlated positively with anxiety-related behaviour in the elevated plus maze. The use of an automated home cage observation system yields temporal changes in elements of locomotor activity with an advanced level of spatial resolution. Moreover, it avoids the confounding influence of human intervention and saves time-consuming human observations.